Archive for the ‘Whassup’ Category.

Blog. Blog? Wake up, Blog!

I have been a complete slacker at blogging lately. This seems hardly fathomable, as blogging is about the least taxing means of employment I can think of. How slack must one be to fail to generate a sentence or two on the topic of one’s choice at the time of one’s own choosing? Sheesh. My camera broke not too long ago, and in most of the blog entries that occur to me I generally want to include a photo. Somehow, this obstacle to my creativity has been annoying enough that I most often decide not to post at all. Good thing I don’t make a living blogging.

For the time being, Ann has loaned me her camera, which her daughter Anna loaned to her but she says she never uses. Anywho, I’ll get around to taking some pics eventually, but today I would like to share with you an article I found on another site. If you know me, you probably are aware that I enjoy language, including purposely mangling English words and phrases in order to make myself, and perhaps others, laugh. This article had me giggling this morning.

You see, blogging is so easy, I can actually blog about another blogger’s article and call it a post. Neat. Now, back to my nap.

The Warrior and the Monk

The following story was quoted to Conal in email recently. He shared it with me and I enjoyed it very much. The person who shared it with him had gotten it from the web page of John Greenfelder Sullivan, Powell Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Elon University in Maryland.

In a famous Zen story, a samurai warrior comes up to a little monk and says: Teach me about heaven and hell. “Teach you?” the little monk replies, “why you are a dirty, smelly, poor excuse for a samurai. Even your sword is rusty!” Insulted, the samurai, flush with anger, draws his sword and is about to cleave this insolent monk in two. A split second before he strikes, the monk says: “That’s Hell.” The samurai has a moment of insight. He realizes that this monk has gone to the very door of death to teach him. He fills with gratitude, his body relaxes and he sheaths his sword. At that precise moment, the monk says: “That’s Heaven.”

I was curious to see what this person was about, and I was even more inspired as I read over Dr. Sullivan’s writings. Wow. In a culture that places so much emphasis on “leadership” centered around making corporations bigger and more powerful, I’m grateful to know that there are beings such as Dr. Sullivan leading inspiring young people toward compassion, wholeness, and service.

My Beautiful Launderette

Here is me. I am smiling, you can see. Why am I smiling? I am smiling because I so much enjoy our new washer and dryer. Aren’t we all lovely?

New Laundry Machines

The Tree Circus

Over the last couple of weeks, Dave Bayette’s Tree Service has been working at our property as well as Ann’s property next door, and the Conklin place further down Murraydale Lane. Dave’s got some serious equipment including a monster chipper, a fleet of chainsaws, and a large truck to haul the chipped material, which also features a crane/bucket arrangement for high work in the trees.  This photo shows the truck parked in the valley bottom down by the creek at the old Chinese dam (the wall seen to the left of the truck).

tree trimming truck

Dave’s crew varies based on what needs to be done. At our place, he brought along four workers, one of whom was an experienced climber. The climber is the rather amazing person who goes up in the bucket to get the high limbs, or even crazier, scampers manually up trees with a chainsaw swinging from his belt. I’m completely impressed with the skill of the climbers. I can’t even imagine being up that high in a tree without hyperventilating, let alone hanging by one arm, operating a screeching chainsaw with the other, while at the same time managing how the cut pieces fall so that the process proceeds safely and without damaging the ground too much. Or the noggins of the ground crew working below. Talk about multi-tasking… I also enjoyed their knowledge of how trees grow and how best to trim them to encourage healthy growth.

The ground crew works like a well-oiled machine, clearing brush and downed limbs as they accumulate and putting it all through the chipper.  They worked very hard on the hillside below our house. We were able to do some clearing there this year, but these guys really gave us a wonderful jump on our vision of park-like landscaping all through the area. Here is a before shot taken in the morning:


And following is the same area that afternoon after they had cleared and chipped a huge amount of material, which they spread around the meadows as chips and mulch that will eventually disappear as it decomposes into lovely dirt. Sweet. Now the cleared areas will be easy to weed-eat and keep tidy and — wait for it — fire safe!!!!


Conal and I variously pitched in hauling and dragging branches and brush, sawing, and sitting around appreciatively watching the guys work. At one point, we were watching admiringly as Dave skillfully maneuvered the bucket up and around in the high canopy of a giant oak, working the crane’s angles to put himself in just the right spot for his next cut. It’s motion reminded me of the gut-clenching swing of a ferris wheel, only going in all directions instead of a nice, predictable circle. The other climber walked by us and I exclaimed to him, “You could charge admission for this show!” He grinned and replied, “Yep. The tree circus,” and headed off to refill his saw with fuel.

Dave works as hard if not harder than any of his crew. Here he is sawing away at an uprooted oak near our house that partially burned in the fire this past spring:

Dave Bayette

I think we made friends. The crew seemed to enjoy our company and help, chatting and cheerfully answering our endless questions about trees and saws and what have you. The chocolate chip cookies I baked for them were also a big hit. We’re looking forward to having them back again soon.

A Distinguished Visitor

This morning I was out on the porch soaking up warm California sunshine and talking to my dad on the phone when Conal exclaimed something to the effect of, “Wow, there’s a huge owl in that tree!” Dad then got to hear me squeal excitedly about the huge owl in the tree for a bit before we got back to our conversation.

Great Horned OwlThe owl was perched rather picturesquely on a craggy oak branch about, oh, sixty feet away. Conal retrieved the binoculars so we could get a closer look. I was very impressed by the face that leaped into view in the binos.

I’ll call the owl a him, although I haven’t a clue if it was a male or female. He hung out on his branch for several hours, resting perhaps, or scouting our hillside for potential meals. He’d gaze directly back at us whenever we came out on the porch to check on him. Who, ahem, was watching Who?

I’d guess he was maybe 18 inches tall. He was also fairly stout, exhibiting a perfect Halloween silhouette. His face bore a grave expression, his eyes magnificent yellow lamps with huge black pupils. He blinked them one at a time at me, and occasionally spun his head around, which Conal especially liked.

I’m guessing he was a Great Horned Owl, because he was great big and had horny protrusions of feathers on his head. Googling for images of the breed, I came up with the picture here, which is a pretty good likeness of our distinguished visitor.

I happened to be out on the porch watching him when he began to shift position on his branch (the first time he’d moved anything besides his eyes and head all morning). He lumberingly turned about on the branch to face downhill away from the house and took off, swooping away toward the meadow at the valley bottom.

Ah, country life.

Local is the New Organic

This article caught my attention, as have several similar articles lately, regarding how we shop for food in our country and what it means to our health, environment, and culture, specifically around the practice of seeking out and eating local food products.

yummyA strategy of choosing locally produced food strikes me as a sensible and fun way to improve my health and reduce my environmental footprint. If a product only has to travel a couple of hours from the farm to my table, rather than days or weeks on planes, trains, and automobiles, then less fuel and resources will be consumed in bringing my meal to me. My food will be fresher and likely yummier. I’m enjoying reading that organic growing practices are going hand in hand with the eat-local trend, as well, so that fewer chemicals will be manufactured and end up in my body. Sweet.

And I certainly don’t want to forget the fun factor. If I frequent the local farmers’ market, I’ll get to enjoy meeting folks from the farms, and mingling with people from the community.

The article mentions that the typical supermarket carries about 30,000 items, about half of which come from just ten multinational corporations. Yikes. If you know me at all, you’ve probably heard me express concern over the influence of the ever-expanding corporation and its impact on human well being. I’d way rather have the farmer who is actually growing my food receive my support. Well, here’s to putting my money where my mouth is ~ point me to the nearest farmers market!

Cookie Weather

Conal made it home from his extra night in Texas yesterday. He was rested and happy after a good sleep in a hotel room paid for by the airline, on the first really comfortable bed he’d been in for two weeks. We had a pleasant, leisurely drive home from the Sacramento airport, chatting happily the whole way, stopping at the video store, post office, and the grocery store when we got to San Andreas. The day was sunny and warm, and we enjoyed each others’ company and the mild weather. Conal was delighted to be home. The thermometer on our south-facing front porch read in the low 90’s in the afternoon. We had a lovely evening, though jet-lag hit Conal like a load of bricks at about 6:30PM, poor guy. I fed him salad and spaghetti squash with homemade sauce. We cuddled up and watched an episode of “House,” one of our favorite TV shows. Conal made it through the first episode, but faded toward the end of the second. It wasn’t quite 9PM when we crawled into bed.

During the night, perhaps around 2AM, we were awakened by the sound of dripping. It rained! And rained. And kept on raining for hours. It was the first real rain here for several months. Snuggling together, we relished the occaisional misting that settled on us from the open window over our bed. We rejoiced in the rich earthy smell and the coolness of the air.

Continue reading ‘Cookie Weather’ »

Missed Connection

After Tasha’s wedding in Seattle, Conal flew directly off to Germany for a conference on functional programming. He was scheduled to come in to the Sacramento Airport tonight at 11:20 pm, where I was to pick him up.

In addition to the hour and a half drive home from the airport, Conal’s journey from the German town of Freiburg will have included a two-hour train ride from Freiberg to Fankfurt, the long plane ride from Frankfurt to Chicago, a second flight to Dallas, then a final flight to Sacramento.

Ay carumba. With airline travel being as dicey as it is these days, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that his flight leaving Chicago was delayed due to mechanical difficulties, which will most likely cause him to miss his Dallas connection by an hour.

He is in the air now. I checked rather exhaustively online to see if there were any other options to get anywhere near here or the Bay Area, with no luck. I’m afraid my beloved will be spending a night in Dallas. The next chance he’ll have to get to Sacramento looks like a 9:30 am flight which arrives at 11:05 am tomorrow morning.

Sigh. I miss my sweetie.

The Wood Tossing Game

Conal’s late father, Bob, told me that he delighted in keeping every penny he could out of PG&E’s hands by using wood for heating purposes. One of my favorite memories of Bob is spending an afternoon with him running the wood splitter, a fascinating machine that splits logs with a wedge, slowly but with incredible force. There is a lot of wood available here at Murray Creek, what with trees and branches falling regularly, and Bob spent a good deal of time and energy gathering, cutting, splitting, stacking, and moving wood from one pile to another. A lot of work goes into cheating PG&E!

I’m learning. Wood around here is mostly in the form of oak and pine. Pine lights easy and burns hot. Oak is the denser of the two, is harder to light, and burns longer. You get a fire roaring with kindling and pine, then add long-burning oak for lasting toastiness.

Also, wood isn’t ready to just lob into the stove the minute it’s fallen. “Green” wood (that which is still living or recently felled) doesn’t burn well since it still has a high water content. We recently cut down a tree that was too close to the house and I was amazed to see the amount of water bubbling up out out of the stump. Logs have to be “seasoned” in order to have time to dry out and be suitable for fuel. Bob said that it takes a year for wood to be properly seasoned. He had a system of piles that sorted kindling and small pieces from big logs, pine from oak, and seasoned from green. Wood was collected, cut, split, sorted, and then rotated through the various stacks until it finally ended up in a box in one of the houses, ready to go into the wood stove.

It should be pointed out that the body heat generated by all this industry is also an excellent way to warm up on a chilly day.

Continue reading ‘The Wood Tossing Game’ »

Paint Me Happy

Today I’m wiggly with excitement because I took my first oil painting class. Painting is something I’ve wanted to learn about for a long time. I did a lot of sketching and pencil work years ago, but not painting. Pencil is great for realism and precision, which I love, and still I have always had an itch to see what I could do with color. I found Joni’s ad in the local Buy & Sell and signed up for a workshop. Joni’s home and studio are located in Valley Springs, about a half hour drive away. A manageable distance, for the boonies. She’s got a small building dedicated to her studio and teaching. It is a cozy, homey space filled with seven or eight easels and students and her work station. Her seat and easel are elevated on a platform to make it easier to see her demonstrating techniques and color mixes. Cabinets and supply areas line the perimeter. All available wall space is filled with paintings and treasures and lacy, flowery things.

Joni herself immediately enveloped me in a warm hug, then got me seated at an easel and set up with brushes and squirts of paint on a mixing board. She bustled about the room in a motherly way, making sure each student was comfortable and had everything they would need for the painting to be created. She enjoyed calling on me for the “tall person job” of reaching items from top shelves. I liked her immediately, and also liked soaking up the warm camaraderie amongst the students. They were all female and mostly older than I, though there was one young person who I’d guess was in her mid-teens. A few people seemed to know each other well, and I liked the community feeling I got from the gathering. An atmosphere of pleasure and friendship permeated the place.

Nighttime Seascape by JoniThis is Joni’s original painting that we were to copy, following her step-by-step instructions. She had already prepped our canvases, and we worked from a prepared black ground. Each person interpreted what they saw differently, used color and made spacial choices in slightly different ways, so even though we were all working from the same reference the paintings varied interestingly. I was surprised at how pretty they all looked to me, especially my own. Bob Ross would be proud!

Joni was in constant motion, keeping the pace moving along steadily so that by 2pm we had completed the sky and much of the water. By the end of the second 4-hour session next week, our paintings will be done and we’ll take them home.

I was completely enchanted by the whole process, and loved mixing colors that seemed weird but looked awesome when applied. Take another look at the painting, and then consider that the first mix Joni had us make was a light, buttery yellow. Yellow! Yep, it’s in there. And who’d a-thunk that a sky needs green in it?! Crazy.

I’m already hankering for more. That third bedroom may have a future as a studio…